Monday, August 13, 2012

Poetry Monday: William Carlos Williams' Asphodel, That Greeny Flower

Inspired by the wonderful work of Ellen Mandel in reminding me of some of the giants of poetry that have coloured my perspective, I thought that today I'd feature a poem that I cite often, and that, because it is long and complex is often left out of anthologies and readings.  William Carlos Williams' work is sometimes deceptively simple, but not "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower", which is simultaneously a love poem, an extended apology, a botanical exporation, a rumination the meaning of life, and perhaps most powerfully of all, a meditation on the meaning of art--poetry in particular.  I can't produce it all here - there are copyright restrictions for one thing and it's quite lengthy for another, but I urge you to read the whole of it, maybe several times.  Here are a few excerpts (my favourite bits) to whet your appetite:

Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
  like a buttercup
    upon its branching stem-
save that it's green and wooden-
  I come, my sweet,
    to sing to you.
We lived long together
  a life filled,
    if you will,
with flowers.  So that 
  I was cheered
    when I came first to know
that there were flowers also
  in hell.

My heart rouses
  thinking to bring you news
    of something
that concerns you
  and concerns many men.  Look at
    what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
  despised poems.
    It is difficult
to get the news from poems
  yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
of what is found there. 
For more, you can visit read the entire text at PoemHunter.  You can also read some analyses at the 
University of Illinois' Modern Poetry site.

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